In the nearly two years I’ve been working as a social media manager, I’ve read through thousands of news stories, written hundreds of blog posts, emailed both on and off the clock, worked patiently for hours with two interns, and watched way too many hilarious videos of cats to count.
As the years have gone on, I’m not as doe-eyed about the position or the field itself as I was when I first started. Social media is tough. It’s demanding, obsessed with keywords and links and ROI, and often a career position that few people can fully define what all happens in it. It’s not a job for the faint at heart or those looking to do just the bare minimum.
On the plus side, you never stop learning but for as much of a plus as that can be it’s also a con in its own right – you never stop learning. It’s expected of any social media manager worth their salt to be constantly “on” and moving and shaking, but one can only be raised up so high with their name mentioned in publications or blogging about the same seasonal topics for so long before the inevitable crash occurs. And then it’s easy to feel like all of the creativity has been zapped out of you forever and you can’t write anything because you’ve been completely drained on the blogging front.
I would know. I’m currently going through that feeling right now. But I’m pushing forward with the aid of my team by my side to get through it because I won’t let that issue, or the following five ones social media managers face on a daily basis, get me down.
1) The “Do You Just Go on Facebook All Day?” Stereotype
There’s always “that person” who will ask you what you do for a living and if you reply that you work in social media, they always go, “So are you just hanging out on Facebook all day?” and chuckle to themselves like they were the first person to ever make that jab at your job. I am always the first to declare a strong “no” to this question and describe a little bit about what actually goes into the job. This stereotype needs to die, people, and the only way to ever get it to fade away is to educate others about what you do when asked.
2) Forever Fighting for the Position
I have a quiet fear deep inside of me that if sales slide at the company I work for drastically for whatever reason, my job would be one of the first to get the ax. Separate from that fear is a different one where I would like to keep my position and move to a different city and telecommute from there, but I worry that out of sight means out of mind and that would also lead to a sudden job loss.
In social media, I feel like managers are forever fighting for their positions and to demonstrate as much as humanly possible what they bring to the business they work for and how what they bring is unlike that of any other person. Social media is by no means a fad that will fade away anytime soon and can be done well no matter where you’re located, but in an economy where no job is ever truly secure the thought of “what if?” could effectively drive you crazy if you think about it for too long.
3) Age and Time
Neither can be escaped and you’re always racing against one or the other. In the age category, companies demand a specific number of years of social media experience out of a person and yet publications cry out in op/ed pieces time after time that social media is a job for the 25 and under set. As far as time is concerned, if you work on the West Coast you’re forever running three hours behind to catch up to the East Coast. And vice versa – trying to remember that your 7 AM EST emails will not be answered by the PST set for several hours to come.
On matters of time and age, acknowledge that it is what it is. There is no magic number for the best age to perform working in social media well at, no magic hour where all of your emails will be answered all at once and you won’t have to wait on anyone. I’d rather get a thought out response several hours, or even days, after I sent the initial first email than make a snap decision that I didn’t think through.
4) Content for Content’s Sake
The internet is constantly littered in articles about ‘90s boy bands rehashed over and over for clicks from the nostalgic set which at this point appears to be all of us. This is only the tip of the iceberg in creating content for content’s sake that I’m worried about though.
Far too many articles today pander to the lowest common denominator. Journalist Gay Talese said, “I think most journalists are pretty lazy, number one. A little lazy and also they're spoon-fed information....you have these people who create a package of news, develop it as a story line, a scenario, and they find, as Mailer once said about the press, that they're like a donkey. You have to feed the donkey. The donkey every day has to eat. So [special interests] throw information at this damn animal that eats everything. Tin cans, garbage.”
To be relevant online today, the belief is that one needs to be posting all day long with scheduled tweets and Facebook statuses and blog posts, never taking a break because if you do, you don’t register on the Google search horizon. While I am aware that this makes older generations, and anyone who lacks a raw writing ability in particular, the most nervous and sends them on a power trip to have everyone constantly working on a robotic SEO laden content free for all, I refuse to play along.
I will not write about anything I’m not passionate about. If you don’t have passion about the topic you’re focused on blogging about, a reader can tell. A reader knows when you’re half-assing it. The internet may be a mess of articles that are so basic it makes the eyeballs glaze over, but in that same mess is a wealth of hidden knowledge. There’s always something going on in the news that you can read about and find a facet that intrigues you, makes you question and think, and eventually write about it while tying in the place that you work for along the way.
Isn’t that what good written content is supposed to be doing? You are a writer, after all.
5) Self Promotion
I am a social media manager. I am an editor and blogger. I am also a ghostwriter, most notably for my boss’s Forbes account where I have written over 100 articles under her name. While this is hardly a secret, it has its own share of difficulties from time to time, particularly where self promotion is concerned.
It breaks down like this. Companies want to discuss their new products or services on a major outlet where they can link back to their website and drive customers to said site through clicks. Many websites have rules and regulations about self promotion because when a blogger self promotes it turns the article into an advertisement and has nothing of actual substance to contribute. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to click on a link to an article discussing how wonderful XYZ company is, written by the same damn company, when I have over twenty other meaty news stories demanding my attention. Save that for your Tumblr blog or a company blog instead and talk yourself up there. On outside outlets, it’s all about the careful coupling of real news/tips/advice with a brief mention of your own company.
In the event that not even that mention can be included, load up your author bio with links back to your website and where a reader can find you through social media. Focus on making the article passionately written about a topic you know and understand and want to bring to the attention span of as many people as possible.
It’s not an easy thing to do and you may need help. In that event, enter the social media manager. We’ve got this. It’s our job.